This will be an example of a little discovery, which is actually a big discovery. It's also an example of how past-life memory seems to work--and how it seemingly doesn't work.
Several months ago, when I was researching my earliest published writing as Mathew Franklin Whittier--a 16-year-old boy working as a "printer's devil" for the Boston "Courier," in 1829--I saw a copy of the "Courier's" sister paper, the "New-England Galaxy," for sale on Ebay. It was the "Galaxy" in which Mathew was getting his creative writing published in 1829.* But I had no reason to believe that he had been publishing in it as early as 1827. The date of publication was only a few days after Mathew's 15th birthday, in July.
But it so-happened that there was one story in that edition, which I recognized as his work--both by intuition, and by long familiarity with Mathew's style. It was a cautionary tale about one of his favorite subjects, military exercises, or "musters." The protagonist got increasingly involved in these faux military events, until he rose in the (faux) ranks and began to think of himself as somebody important. He ruined his finances, his life, and the life of his family, as he poured money into this thing and neglected his trade, until he became a penniless vagabond.
Now, we need to give some background. When Mathew was 14, his brother, five years older, was permitted to save up enough money, by making shoes at a shop near their farmhouse, to go to the newly-established academy in their city of Haverhill, Mass. But Mathew, five years younger, was not allowed to attend; and the real reason was, he was the physically fit brother, and he was needed on the farm. Apparently, Mathew had a big blow-out argument with his father, which escalated to a physical fight, and Mathew ran away to sea. He ended up, apparently, in Cuba--probably because he had a weak stomach and couldn't make it all the way to South America. He was (as I surmise) picked up on the way back. He lived for awhile at home again in Haverhill, but soon moved to Boston, to take the job on the Boston "Courier." There's more, but that will suffice.
So this story would have been submitted--either by himself, or perhaps by another family member--to the "New-England Galaxy" in time to be published for his birthday.
That was my speculation when I found the piece. I had a great many pieces which I attribute to Mathew, in year 1829, in the "Galaxy." But it is difficult to prove these things outright.
This story is signed with the initials, "X.M.T." Fairly quickly, I caught on that this wasn't a real person's initials--it probably was a phonetic spelling of the word "exempt," the way you see on customized license plates. But with my intellectual understanding of Mathew's history, and what was going on in his life at this time, I interpreted that it was an inside joke saying he was "exempt" from going to college (because he had found work-around ways to educate himself, and didn't need it).
But I missed the obvious. This story is about taking military musters too seriously--and Mathew lampooned military musters many times throughout the course of his career. But he was also a Quaker. A somewhat rebellious Quaker, admittedly, who didn't like to use the "plain speech" (thee and thou) because it struck him as being artificial and contrived; who drank, and liked music, and so-on. Still, he was a Quaker in his values; and he had no use for militarism. He saw it as a social disease, that people would hold up the supposed glory of war as an ideal. And he spared no opportunity to mock it.
Quakers (you may be ahead of me, here), were exempt from military service, and in many places, if not all, they were also exempt from military musters. The writer of this piece was not only warning people about taking musters too seriously, he, himself, was exempt from them. That means he was a Quaker--and that, in turn, narrows the field considerably.
Furthermore, he has named his protagonist "Ichabod Ictarus." Mathew loved alliterative names. Very soon in his career he would start using names that started with the letter "P.," and usually the first name was Peter, like "Peter Pendergrass" or "Peter Pumple." And, I know, from Mathew mentioning it in one or two of his essays, that he thought very highly of Washington Irving; and, we know that he read the authors of the previous century, and those of his own times, voraciously. So he would have particularly admired "Ichabod Crane." Except that this Ichabod tried, like the mythical Icarus, to fly too close to the sun, by rising in the pseudo-ranks of the world of military musters. Mathew, being tall and lanky, was profoundly ambivalent about his own ambitions to be a writer, because of the Quaker admonition against pride and ambition. So to that extent, he was projecting himself into his character.
During this period of his life, Abby, his future wife who was a child prodigy, being four years younger, had probably already started tutoring him, in lieu of a college education. She included a generous helping of the ancient Greeks in her curriculum (based on her own upper-class private education), and Mathew would frequently refer to the Greek myths and philosophers throughout his literary career. So both the reference to Washington Irving, and the reference to a Greek myth, are clues pointing to Mathew Franklin Whittier (if we needed any more of them).
Note that "Icharus" is mispelled as "Ictarus." This is deliberate, and points to the word "icterus," the technical term for jaundice. The colloquial definition of jaundice is “a state of feeling in which views are prejudiced or judgment is distorted, as by envy or resentment.” Throughout his career, Mathew would use these meaningful mispellings, like "orfise seekin'," which means, at one and the same time, "office seeking" and "orifice seeking." I didn't pick up on the double-meaning of "Ictarus" until the second pass of proofreading, even though I have seen Mathew do this a thousand times in his various works.
In any case, it's pretty close to a done-deal that this is Mathew Franklin Whittier's work, with all the clues taken together. Note that skeptics typically pull everything apart, to make it seem justified to dismiss the evidence--on the principle of "divide and conquer." But that's both unfair and irrational, and we won't give them any credence on that basis, here.
So let's take this as being verified. It does two things: firstly, it shows the very odd way that past-life memory works, at least, for me. There are things I recognized immediately from my past-life writings; and then, there are things I stupidly didn't get, even when all the clues were right in front of me. Why? I think the mistakes happened when I was led astray by my own intellect; in other words, when my preconceptions, in what I had studied from recorded history, got in the way of my past-life intuition. I knew that Mathew had been thwarted in his desire to attend college--so my mind took it there, instead of to the obvious conclusion which was right in front of me.
It doesn't disprove the actuality of past-life memory. It just means I can get in my own way, at times.
Secondly, for the first time, I have some very strong evidence that Mathew did, indeed, publish his early work in this paper. Very likely, this is actually his first published piece. I haven't studied the 1827 "New-England Galaxy" to be sure; but since it falls just after his 15th birthday, I'm guessing it may be. That would mean I have a physical copy of the first thing he ever got published in a newspaper. And it's pretty sophisticated.
This means he undoubtedly wrote most, if not all, of the other material I have assigned to him in the 1829 "Galaxy"; and it also means that, like Abby, he can justifably be called a child prodigy.
So that's a lot of benefit to derive from one stupid mistake, finally recitified.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*In fact, I had instructed my researcher to scan through the latter portion of 1828, and had found nothing, so I didn't suspect anything even further back, in 1827.
Music opening this page: "The Eighth of January,"
traditional fiddle tune performed by Vi Wickam and friends